People + Parks: Miles and Miles of Generosity

By Elizabeth McGuire

When the Statesman Capitol 10,000 weaves through Austin for its 41st annual race on April 8th, race director Jeff Simecek will have “every job and no job.” He will be at the start and the finish, and of course communicating with his team throughout, but by the time the gun goes off, much of his work has already been done.

That year-long effort includes one of his favorite roles: cultivating the charitable piece of the race and knowing that a hugely popular, one-day event can have a lasting effect on our community.

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For the second year in a row, Austin Parks Foundation is the official beneficiary of the Cap10K. Beneficiaries are selected based on how their mission aligns with the goals of the race. Simecek calls APF a natural fit.

“People love and use the parks and trails,” he said. “They train and run on the trails; they take their families to the parks. It’s a really synergistic fit for the product we bring to the table, which is getting people outside and healthy.”

Last year, the Cap10K raised $40,000 for APF through a combination of race registrations, donations and the Statesman’s matching dollars. Simecek knows that race participants will give more to an organization that resonates with them.

“Our donors feel good about giving to something they are actually using,” he said, “plus they can see the great work that APF is doing around town.”

Simecek has lived in Austin for 25 years, but was raised in Bryan/College Station with a deep love for nature and green spaces.

“I grew up on a farm. Basically I grew up outside. Our parents sent us out and said, ‘Don’t come back unless you’re bleeding’…so we made our own fun outside.”

Today he spends his free time running along Lady Bird Lake or taking his dogs to a favorite neighborhood spot, Sparky Park—a small but charming gem in Hyde Park that clinched the deal when he and his partner were house hunting.

“Parks are especially important now because we are so locked into being on call 24/7. You cannot get away from the noise. It’s great to leave your phone in your car or house and go get some fresh air, and there’s no place better to do that than at a park. It’s good for your soul,” he said.

Friends tell him he has the best job in the world, and he doesn’t argue.

“I get to work with all kinds of community projects and support a city I love,” he said. “When it comes to parks, I’m especially passionate. I truly feel like it’s a privilege and responsibility to live in our community and take care of our green spaces.”

 Thanks to the Cap10K, tens of thousands of runners and walkers will hear that message that as well.

People Plus Parks is a series featuring the people behind the work we’re doing in Austin’s parks. Check out the “People + Parks” category for more.